Surviving a dicey first half, the United States Women’s National Team defeated a feisty Costa Rica side Friday night 3-0 to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
With one of the deepest rosters in the world, USWNT coach Pia Sundhage selected regular starters Hope Solo, Amy LePeilbet, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Lauren Cheney, Heather O’Reilly and Abby Wambach and added in Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath to round out the roster.
Here are four thoughts from the game.
Kelly O’Hara has been a revelation as an outside back
Some followers of the USWNT may have raised an eyebrow when Sundhage released her roster for the tournament, with forward Kelley O’Hara on the roster – listed as a defender.
Following the knee injury to Ali Krieger in the opening game of the tournament, the decision to bring O’Hara, instead of veteran defender Stephanie Cox, looked even more questionable.
However, playing as an outside back, O’Hara has easily been one of the best U.S. players on the field. In her debut against Guatemala, O’Hara provided beautiful service from the left side of the field and assisted on three goals.
On Friday night against Costa Rica, O’Hara was again fantastic, getting forward to win the corner that resulted in the first goal, showing off her recovery speed in stifling the Costa Rican attack, consistently winning challenges and showing a level of quality possession rare for a defender.
Kudos to Sundhage for the decision to convert O’Hara to a defender and kudos to O’Hara for doing it so well.
Injured or not, Hope Solo saved the U.S.
Battling a quad pull which was obviously still bothering her, Hope Solo made a number of solid saves, including a spectacular one to deny a Costa Rican breakaway. Solo was so solid in the air, she made repeated Costa Rican services into the U.S. box a waste of time.
In an odd way, Solo’s injury may have even helped the Americans. On numerous occasions from backpasses, where Solo would have normally cleared the ball far up the field, Solo instead made short passes wide to her outside backs, helping the U.S. possess the ball out of the defensive third.
Alex Morgan must be inserted into the starting lineup
The moment Morgan entered the game, the U.S., which had been struggling all night and was only up 1-0, came alive.
Morgan immediately used her pace to open up the Costa Rican defense, ran at defenders and set-up the second goal when she laid a pass in behind the Costa Rican defense for Abby Wambach.
Morgan also scored the third goal in a play of sheer determination as she battled through two Costa Rican defenders and the keeper to put the ball, and the game, away.
The U.S. needs to change its formation before the Olympics begin
Anyone who has watched the U.S. play over the past year must now realize the team is much better with the inclusion of Alex Morgan. In addition to her play last night, Morgan scored clutch goals for the U.S. in both the semifinals and finals of the World Cup.
However, with Sundhage preferring a 4-2-3-1 with Wambach as the lone striker and Sundhage unwilling to play Morgan as a wide attacking midfielder, a change is needed.
The 4-4-2 would seem to be the obvious answer, but with the playmaking ability of Lauren Cheney as an attacking midfielder, it would seem a waste.
With a overflow of world-class forwards on the roster, a 4-1-2-3 would seem to suit the U.S. the best. With Shannon Boxx occupying the holding role and Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney playing the other two midfield positions, the U.S would be free to play Wambach as a central forward with Morgan, O’Reilly, Rapinoe, Rodriguez and Leroux to rotate at the other two forward positions.
John D. Halloran